Assembled from the ashes of Mountain Express, the memorably named group wants to grab peoples’ attention as it reopens more than a dozen formerly shuttered locations in the state.

Meet the women in charge of ‘G-Spot,’ Iowa’s newest c-store brand

Outside a Gas Spot c-store in Davenport, Iowa. Permission granted by InConvenience Inc.

When Mountain Express Oil Company began liquidating its assets amid Chapter 7 bankruptcy last fall, InCommercial Property Group, which leased out locations to Mountain Express, suddenly found itself with several shuttered convenience stores.

Knowing the company needed to either re-open or sell many of these locations, InCommercial’s leaders began to plan their next steps.

“We started thinking about how we are going to backfill for the tenant that was supposed to have been with us for 20 years,” Tiffany Fraley, chief operating officer for InCommercial, said in an interview. 

InCommercial began speaking with folks around the c-store industry, including store owners and operations managers, for guidance, and to “learn what they’re doing,” Fraley said. Conversations covered what those individuals liked and disliked about their brands and the industry, as well as how they treated their employees. 

“Once you start asking questions about ‘who,’ you start asking questions of ‘why’ and ‘how,’” Fraley said. “And with those, naturally, you find that you start learning more than you ever wanted to learn.”

These conversations led Fraley to the idea of turning InCommercial’s former Mountain-Express-leased locations into a new convenience store brand. That idea came to fruition in February when InConvenience Inc., a new group with Fraley as CEO, debuted the first two Goods Spot convenience stores in Davenport, Iowa. 

The InConvenience team also includes Brand Director Alicia LaFollette, who brought more than five years of environmental design management at Walgreens to the new convenience retailer.

As of mid-March, InConvenience’s short-term plans are to reopen 15 shuttered locations in Davenport and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that were formerly leased to Mountain Express, Fraley said. These will include the two Goods Spot stores, as well as 13 other locations that will sport InConvenience’s new Gas Spot banner, which includes fuel. 

Meet the women in charge of ‘G-Spot,’ Iowa’s newest c-store brand

Alicia LaFollette and Tiffany Fraley (far left) of InConvenience Inc. with employees Rachel Kemph and Nicole Majkowicz. Permission granted by InConvenience Inc.  

The Goods Spot and Gas Spot banners are part of InConvenience’s new “G-Spot” branding, both Fraley and LaFollette said. The company’s long-term plans are to open Goods Spot and Gas Spot stores across the U.S.

But their mission extends beyond running quality locations. With the c-store industry’s leadership dominated by men, Fraley and LaFollette also aim to set a new standard for women in leading roles at convenience operators.

“There’s not a lot of females in this space,” Fraley said. “That was really interesting to us, and kind of the angle that we wanted to take.”

Remodels and growth plans

With two Goods Spot and four Gas Spot stores now open, the InConvenience team has plans to remodel all 15 stores, Fraley and LaFollette said. If all goes according to schedule, 20 locations will be open and remodeled by the end of 2024, they noted.

Most of these locations have already undergone deep cleans and received new coolers, HVACs and point of sale systems, but the remodels will focus on the design and aesthetics, which will vary per location, they said. 

“We want people to be driving down the highway and see a fun sign that says, ‘The G-Spot is closer than you think — here are the directions to get there.’”

Meet the women in charge of ‘G-Spot,’ Iowa’s newest c-store brand

Tiffany Fraley

CEO, InConvenience Inc.

Every store will have its own “community-driven, localized feel,” which could include elements like murals from local artists or products from local vendors inside the stores, LaFollette said.

“We’re looking for all sorts of partnerships like that in order to tailor to the specific demographics of wherever we are,” she said. “We’re using that kind of data to really empower a lot of those decisions.”

Fraley and LaFollette are also looking to make their G-Spot stores more than just c-stores or gas stations, but also places where people want to hang out, they said.

“We are catering to a place where you want to come in, shop, hang around, grab a cup of coffee, talk to the store employees, see if there’s new merch or new product that you’d like to try,” Fraley said. “It’s just about making it a space that you want to come and not necessarily just a space [where you] would have just stopped and grabbed a Coke and some chips.”

Women-led c-store brand

Finding store-level employees is arguably the biggest headache c-store retailers face today. But Fraley and LaFollette managed to staff all 15 locations almost immediately by rehiring the staff that lost their jobs last fall during Mountain Express’ bankruptcy.

“They were waiting to come back,” Fraley said of the employees. “Having the stores closed hurt the community, and it hurt the employees that relied upon that as a source of income.”

With neither Fraley nor LaFollette having any prior experience in the c-store industry, both executives plan to seek guidance from these employees as they get their new chain up and running.

“I don’t want someone telling me how to do a job, or my job, if they don’t know or have never done something,” Fraley said. “So just really relying on them to go with their gut, go with their experience, let us know what works best.” 

With the exception of one man, all 15 stores only have female employees, Fraley and LaFollette noted. While this is in line with their aim to empower women in the c-store space, it wasn’t on purpose.

“That wasn’t planned — just organically how it was,” Fraley said.

What was on purpose, though, was the double entendre of their new G-Spot branding — which is also in line with their mission.

“We want people to be driving down the highway and see a fun sign that says, ‘The G-Spot is closer than you think — here are the directions to get there,’” Fraley said. “We’re not going at this to be offensive or to make anyone clutch their pearls, but we certainly want to be memorable.”

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